By Mark Isaiah David
Cable television has duped all of us – for decades, we were promised hundreds of channels, thousands of shows, and endless, high picture quality entertainment. But more often than not, nothing good is on, we abuse our remote controllers looking for a channel playing something that is at least tolerable, and we end up keeping the TV on as background noise because what’s showing isn’t compelling to us anymore.
In recent years, more and more people are opting to give up their cable TV subscriptions and get their shows through streaming services instead. Colloquially known as ‘cutting the cord’, the process may result to a cheaper (or totally free) TV viewing experience or a headache borne of a thousand bothers with hardly any financial savings to show for it. If you’ve ever thought about unsubscribing to your cable service, here are some signs that you should go ahead and do so:
1. You’ve had it
You wouldn’t be reading this article if you were completely happy with your cable service. Like myself and thousands of others, you might have found endlessly surfing channels and not finding anything you like, wondering why in the world you’re paying for something you don’t really use anyway.
Don’t do what I did – I endured for years before finally biting the bullet and asking the cable company to leave me alone. If you’re not happy with a service, protect your own interest and stop giving away your money to companies who continually frustrate you.
2. You have fast internet
But before you slash the service, you must make sure you can live with the alternatives. The first requirement for that is your internet speed. Just because you can load Facebook and play your mobile games doesn’t mean that you’re ready to cut the cord. Streaming video takes up A LOT of bandwidth and your internet must be fully capable to bear the load. After all, you’re looking to spend time with Buffy, not buffering.
Test your internet connection on how it handles streaming video – remember, this wouldn’t be for a four minute Youtube video (where buffering is only a bit annoying), this is for binge watching an entire TV series or a movie marathon where repeated buffering could drive you insane. Check if your connection remains stable while multiple users are connected – just because you’re watching TV doesn’t mean someone else in the house won’t be gaming or using Spotify for their music. If you’re lucky enough that there’s Fiber coverage in your area, don’t even think about it – get it. Just this morning, I found out that Converge Fiber is expanding to new areas and they’re waiving installation fees in these localities. Always check if there are deals like these that you should take advantage of.
3. Your TV is ready
Not all TVs can connect to the internet and play streaming video. Fortunately, there are quick, easy, and relatively cheap solutions for this. Apple TV, Roku, and Google Chromecast are just a few of the handydevices that could turn your ordinary TV into something that can enjoy streaming video.Honestly, if you don’t mind ‘plugging in’ every time you watch, you can even just use your phone, tablet, or PC to connect to your TV and stream videos from there.
But if you bought a high-end TV in the last two years or so, chances are, you won’t need a separate device to hook up your TV to the Internet. SmartTVs are slowly but increasingly becoming more common (ex: I chose a SmartTV for my in-laws even though they didn’t have internet because of the TV’s picture quality) so you might even have one without intending to.
4. Cable tv’s programming doesn’t agree with you
Just because you have hundreds of channels in your cable subscription doesn’t mean everything that you want to watch is available to you. More often than not, the choice channels (HBO, NBA, etc.) are in a separate, premium tier where you have to shell out more money just to get access to the shows you wanted in the first place.
Furthermore, if you’re working in the city and you endure a couple of hours every day stuck in horrible traffic, chances are, you miss the show times of the shows you want to watch. Instead of enjoying the suspense of ‘The Walking Dead’, you’re left with ‘Talking Dead’ – an after-show that talks about the show you wanted to see.
If you have streaming video, you can watch the show you watch when you want to watch it. As Captain Planet drilled into me when I was a kid, the power is yours.
5. Signal is strong
Before you cut the cord, find out if you have good reception for the free channels. Don’t underestimate this need. While you may usually scoff at the idea of following the local shows, if you don’t live alone in your house, I guarantee that someone, at some point, will want his local TV fix. It could be your househelp, or your visiting parents, or your wife who, without rhyme or reason, became inexplicably fixated on a local loveteam. The point is that you should secure a good antenna (preferably something that delivers crisp pictures despite being placed indoor) before you forego your cable connection.
6. You’ve done the research
You think you’ll be saving money if you cut your cable, and you’re right… maybe. It actually depends on what you’ll replace the cable with. Netflix, iflix, and HOOQ are popular video streaming services with extensive libraries, but they all cost something – not a lot of money, but they’re not free either. If you want something exclusive like ‘Game of Thrones’, you’d have to shell out more because only HBO (legally) distributes that show.
Of course, some people are on the gray side of the discussion on whether digital content such as movies and TV shows should be free for all. If you’re one of them, you can download your shows through torrent or stream movies in bootleg websites – although you should always be careful because a) you can inadvertently download viruses and malicious malware b)get in trouble with the authorities.
Alternatively, you can try the free yet legal option. One such option is the MovieClub, an app you can download on the Google PlayStore. It offers hundreds of Filipino movies (old and new) 100% free, legally, and conveniently. Just download the app in your phone, cast it to your TV, and enjoy the show.
The point is that cutting your cable might not mean automatic savings for you. Determine the best deals, do your research, and choose how you’ll get your digital content before declaring “Full stream ahead!”
7. You want clearer videos
Sure, some cable providers offer HD channels but at what cost? If you add on HBO HD and Star HD and ESPN HD, and National Geographic HD, and all the other HD channels to your stock cable subscription, you can see the cost skyrocket beyond your budget. If you ask me, it’s insane to pay extra for something you should be getting with your subscription anyway.
If you have fast enough internet (and a TV with HD resolution), watching your movies and TV shows on 1080p resolution won’t be hassle. In the future, you can even expect glorious 4K content to become more readily available – something that the cable industry would likely take some time to embrace.
The number of people cutting the cord is ever increasing – but that doesn’t mean that it’s for everyone. However, if you’ve agreed to every single item in this article, then perhaps it’s time to sharpen your blades and finally, resplendently, cut yourself free.